Kiveton & Wales Heritage

Kiveton & Wales Heritage

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Women of Kiveton Park

Kiveton Women: A Study

Helen Dobson

I came to Kiveton in 2007, to interview women to explore what it is like to be a woman in a mining community. Many stereotypes exist of mining women and by interviewing a number of different women I was able to build up a much more complex idea of what it is like to be a woman in the mining community of Kiveton. I interviewed women of a variety of ages to assess how Kiveton has changed through the years and how the experience of being a woman within Kiveton also changed.

Women’s history is about rediscovering parts of history which have previously been overlooked by historians. By assessing the lives of women it adds to our understanding of the past and allows women the chance to have a voice and demonstrate that they did have an influential role within their families and communities.

The women of Kiveton all have different experiences of living in a mining community. Many women stated that the family life they had with their children was very different to the family life they experienced while they were growing up. Many women agreed that when they were children they spent much more time outside and playing in the fields around the mine. While at home they had to do a number of chores such as washing the pots and helping prepare the meals before they were allowed out. In many houses there was a clear gender divide between the chores, JC remembers how it was the girls who helped with looking after the younger children and the boys who helped with the fire and bringing in the coal. However there were also instances where the gender divide did not seem to exist. JG recalls how she used to help her father look after his pigeons and she believes she was the ‘only girl in Kiveton’ who did this. AB used to help with her father who had a licence to slaughter animals and she would also help him in the allotments he owned. Many women also said that while they were growing up they would spend much of their free time outside in mixed groups with both boys and girls and they would do such things as ‘scrumping’ stealing apples and playing around the pit top.

The women I interviewed all had different memories of the relationship between their mother and father and who had the authority within the family. JC recalls that her mother would ensure everyone was silent in the house when their father was on nights as she was afraid of the children waking him up. JC said that when she had children she did not want this and so she would let her children jump on their father to wake him up. MC remembers how her father used to tip up his wage packet to his wife and let her deal with the financial aspects of running the household. SH remembers the relationship between her parents and that it was her mother who was usually responsible for the discipline within the family. SH can remember the time when her father was late for Sunday dinner as he was at the pub so her mother took his dinner to the pub for him, however her father replied to this by asking where the salt and pepper was. BM recalls her parents sorting out the money together and that her father also helped with chores around the house. She can remember her father buying an electric washing machine for her mother as he wanted to help her with the chores, most of the neighbours came round to look at this washing machine as it was one of the first electric ones.

Many of the women interviewed revealed that they felt that employment opportunities were available for women but these were outside of Kiveton. MC worked for the coal board in the wages department and she thoroughly enjoyed the job and did not feel she was discriminated against in any way because of her gender. However women were prohibited from answering the office phone and one time she did answer and was greeted with ‘all sorts of colourful language’ but once the miners knew she was there they never swore in front of her. Many of the women I interviewed had also been involved in the local parish council and were involved in this during the Miners’ Strike. The meetings during the strike were described by one lady as ‘raucous’ and sometimes like ‘banging your head against a brick wall’. However many of the women felt that the Strike brought the community together and everyone tried to help each other and make sure no one went without. Free school meals were given out and care packages were sent with food and toys.

Some women agreed with the strike but many agreed that they did not think there was any way the miners could win against Margaret Thatcher. AJ says that the strike showed the community spirit within Kiveton and displayed how people would be caring to one another if they were in trouble. Although the mine provided work and stability for many families a lot of the women said that their fathers hated working in the pit and they did not want their children to have to work there. Many women said that they would not want to marry a miner, although some of them did. One of the women remembered that when her father retired from the mine he burnt his work clothes in the back garden as he ‘hated’ his work. Other women remembered how their fathers would refer to their work as ‘unnatural’ and many did not talk about the work they did while they were at home.

However the mine was referred to as the ‘bread and butter’ of the village and it had a paternal influence over the community. SH recalls how a ring got stuck on her finger while she was at school and the teachers told her to go to the pit and get the miners to sort it out for her. The mine did not just provide work for miners it also provided work for lorry drivers and other trades which had links to mining. One witness described the mine as the central hub of the community with different strands coming from it. After the strike and the closure many women felt there was a bitterness within the community and that there were now even less employment opportunities. Another witness said she felt that the pit was something that would always be around but after the strike many people did not see the mine as a stable form of employment anymore.

Many of the women express their pride at belonging to the community of Kiveton and that the pit helped to bring a strong community spirit where people pull together in times of need. A witness recalled when she had a bike stolen from her garden when she was younger and a number of days later it was announced she had polio: the day after this her bike was returned. This demonstrates the communal responsibility which many of the women say exists within Kiveton. However many women did agree that growing up in Kiveton was hard, as many grew up in families which were poor. AB recalls that after her father was killed in a pit accident her family were so poor they had to put cardboard in their shoes as they could not afford new ones. Many of the women I interviewed had fathers who had suffered accidents in the pit and many were killed. The mine was considered by many to be one of the most dangerous places to have an accident and no adequate inquiries occurred after the accidents as they happened so frequently. Not surprisingly, all of the women interviewed did not want their own sons to work in the mine.

Some of the women also said that along with the dangers of the mine came a form of prejudice. SH, who grew up in the ‘White City’, said that she felt that many people believed the ‘White City’ to be an underclass within the community and that at school the children from the ‘White City’ were always picked last for sport teams. The lady felt that she developed an inferiority complex and that when she passed her examinations at school she could not believe it because she had always thought she would not be good enough to do well at school. JW, another witness who left Kiveton to go to university, said she experienced prejudice by her landlady because of the fact that her father was a miner. Other women agreed that once they went to secondary school they too experienced prejudice and that segregation existed between the children of miners and other children.

The leisure activities within Kiveton were described by one lady as conspicuous by their absence and that Kiveton is a ‘bit of a back water really’. Another woman who moved to Kiveton while she was a child recalls that when she arrived in Kiveton she noticed that there was ‘nothing here’. However the women remember that while they were younger they enjoyed their childhoods as they had the freedom to play outside and they could amuse themselves. One woman who left Kiveton to move abroad remembers that there was little to do in Kiveton for children and that she and her friends used to go to hang around the mine or the church as there was nowhere else to go.

All of the women interviewed have a very different experience of growing up and living in Kiveton. Although women did not work underground at the pit, it still had a significant influence on their lives and their community.

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